Mer, rhymes with bear (merriehaskell) wrote,
Mer, rhymes with bear
merriehaskell

Modern Family

I like this show. It's amusing, and I identify strongly with Phil and Cam. It also makes my husband reliably clutch his gut and guffaw once per episode, usually during a Luke one-liner, and that alone is worth watching the show, because it's funny to watch Dann watch it.

I like the notion that it's trying to illustrate more than the traditional nuclear family as we've seen it: A gay couple! A second marriage! An interracial/cross-cultural families! Loving your stepkids! Adoption!

Some of the things they do right, they do SO right. Example: Jay and Manny's relationship feels very real to me, as a stepmother. It's occasionally awkward, hesitant, over-thought. You want to do your best for this kid that has no reason to love you, so you don't always push things the way you would with your own children--and honestly, that's perhaps for your own betterment.

But the thing that 100% throws me out of it is that I have a hard time identifying with the women, because none of them work outside the home.

Sure, it makes sense that Gloria doesn't work--she's the trophy wife of a semi-retired and successful businessman. Now, just to be clear, her character is much more complex than "trophy wife," but her role is not, at least, not in the domestic sphere. She does cook, but I never see her cleaning (do I?), which means there's help. Which I think they refer to a lot--isn't that who dyed Jay's white robe pink recently? I confess to not being super-attentive to this fact. Anyway, I appreciate that Gloria has other roles, too: immigrant, mother, and bad-ass. I'll table sex object for now, especially since they've both backed off and examined Phil's weird little thing for her, which was seriously the one thing I hated about the show in the first season. All things considered, we know Gloria has worked, and worked hard, in the past; that she came from little; and she is certainly relishing her current role. Fair cop.

But does it make sense for Claire not to have a job? Phil is in real estate, and with the recent crises, it might behoove Claire to go to work. But let's leave the oddities of TV finances aside and consider that Claire is competetive, ambitious, and driven, and her youngest child is 12 or 13. How has she not combusted from being at home all this time? Her recent run at City Council or whatever is very late-arriving from that perspective.

So Gloria makes sense; Claire doesn't. The third stay-at-home parent on the show is not a woman, but let's take a look anyway. Cam seems reasonable in that role--no great sense of drive, and has a child at the age that most supports staying home. One suspects that in the working world, Cam would not be a high earner, where his wages might be a wash with the cost of daycare for their daughter. Where money and temperament align, it makes sense. Still doesn't make sense for Claire, though.

I appreciate that the show might be trying to show three families each with a stay-at-home parent. But let's get real. We have two very lightly-worked fathers on the show, as well. Jay is semi-retired. I think we've seen him at work... once? Twice? And how much do we think Phil really works? Couple hours away from home a day? Maybe four? I'm not saying a real realtor, I'm saying how Phil is portrayed on the show.

Basically, Mitch is the only one we see coming and going from work in a reliable fashion. I actually believe he's gone for 8, 9 hours a day--low for a lawyer, but still.

Taking a peek at the younger generation, we have two female characters who are getting very close to breaking out in the world on their own. Haley and Alex are both expected to go to college and get jobs. It is, in fact, a constant bone of contention with Haley that she might not get into a good college, and then OMG what will she do??? There's a weird upper middle class paranoia about this plotline, wherein it is not acceptable for her to consider something like apprenticing with her dad, since real estate doesn't require college. There's a long tradition of boys being brought into the family business... Does this not occur to anyone because Haley's a girl?

But more to the point, with no role models of working women in her life, why are they beating it into her that she has to go to college, has to use college to get a good job? Why has she never shot back a snarky comment about her mom's usage of her college degree? I'm not saying she would be right to do so, but why wouldn't that occur to her as distinctly hypocritical of her parents--teenagers being so finely tuned to the hypocracy of their elders?

Oh, sure, there are more layers to this. For one thing, they don't want her to waste her potential--she has the ability to do more, if she wanted. They don't want her to feel limited by her choices. They have no faith in her past boyfriend picks to think that they might be good wage earners if she wanted to do the stay-at-home mom route. I get it. It's complicated.

But I have conversations all the time with women Claire's age about working or not working, and it never, ever seems to come up in the show. And you can't say that this show is a comedy, it doesn't address stuff like this, because it does.

But only when it thinks of it.

PS I stand corrected in the comments by defectivewookie's wife. Claire had a hospitality-industry job of some sort before kids, and her career ambitions were addressed in an episode. One I totally don't remember, but hey. The upshot is still that it's rarely addressed... and it still feels highly unrealistic to see 3 single-income families wherein budgets don't even seem to come into play, in a show that otherwise does a reasonably good job portraying diversity in modern families.
Tags: yes i watch tv
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